Wholesome Plates

By Margaret Mielczarek

Picture this: you’ve just come home from a heavy training session, you’re starving but it’s late and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking dinner. Sound familiar? How many times have you thought – “I wish someone would cook for me! I wish I had a personal chef.” Well, as it turns out you’re not alone. But fortunately for busy triathletes, a solution to this frustration is here.   

Out of this same frustration was born Wholesome Plates, a small Melbourne-based meal delivery business, founded in 2016 by Dr Elise Boyar. Boyar, a doctor of Chinese Medicine, who also runs a busy clinic in South Yarra, Hawksburn Health, decided to start the business after noticing that her clients weren’t seeing results. “I wanted my clients to use food as medicine but noticed that everyone is time poor so they’re not making great decisions. I wanted to give a solution where people could use food as medicine,” explains Boyar. “I looked at what was already out there but felt there was something missing, or it wasn’t how I would do it, so I didn’t feel comfortable recommending them to my clients,” she continues. Frustrated by the lack of meal delivery services that provide meals based on local, organic and seasonal produce she set out to start her own business.

Knowing she wouldn’t be able to create a successful meal delivery business on her own, the first step was to get a dietitian/sports dietitian and a chef on board. Once established, the team of three then spent the better part of that first year in product development – getting everything right.  From talking with Boyar, it’s obvious how proud she is to work with passionate, driven people who have the same goals in mind. “There’s no way I could have done this on my own. I don’t think any of us could deliver what we’re doing on our own. It’s a really strong, collaborative process,” says Boyar proudly. “We’re all aware that we’re putting our professional names to this product, so in order to do that we have to make sure that we’re [putting] the best possible product out there.”

Who makes up the team at Wholesome Plates?

Elise – Founder, Dr in Chinese Medicine

Amy– Dietitian/Sports Dietitian

James – Chef

Wholesome Plates offers three meal plans – Weight Loss, Energy and Vitality, and PerformanceAfter almost a year of planning and product development, Wholesome Plates – even the name embodies what they’re trying to create – began operation at the start of 2017. “We strive to be Melbourne’s healthiest meal delivery service. We don’t use preservatives; we don’t use any sugar that’s not natural – we cook for order. We don’t have stock that’s lined up. It’s all fresh,” says Boyar. Despite largely relying on word-of-mouth marketing at the moment, Wholesome Plates has already had some very happy customers. One of Boyar’s proudest moments so far was when she received an email from a “corporate guy”. “He was like, ‘I was told by a nutritionist that I need to do this, this and this but I can’t cook, and I’m sick of the lack of variety,’” recalls Boyar. “He emailed me about three to four times in the space of half an hour saying, ‘please tell me [about your business] as soon as possible, I want to order straight away,’” she laughs. “And within a day or two I got another email from him – ‘the meals are amazing. Please thank the whole team for supporting me and making life simpler.’”   

During my chat with Boyar, I was curious about who their target market is, and do they cater for athletes? “Geez, good question,” began Boyar. “I am my target market. I work full time, I see patients until late at night, most days. My partner has his own business. We would be coming home at night and would be like, ‘Oh what do we do?’ It was a mad scramble to cook, which meant we didn’t eat until 9pm,” she explains. “We tried take-away so many times. But the problem with that is, even if you think you’re getting healthy take-away, there is so much sugar in things or preservatives.” Wholesome Plates is for people that are busy – working, training – and who are health conscious. And athletes? The short answer is yes. Wholesome Plates caters for gym-junkies to high-performance athletes. “Amy, our sports dietitian is a former athlete and deals with a lot of athletes in private practice,” says Boyar. “So it was really important that we are catering for people that are active.”

So, how does Wholesome Plates work? What is the process, from first order to home delivery?    

The first step – choose your full five-day meal plan. Wholesome Plates meal plans provide all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and snacks (morning and afternoon tea) – the idea is that you don’t have to cook! You can also opt for lunch/dinner menu plans if you don’t need all meals catered for, or you can choose individual meals if a meal plan is not what you’re after. Wholesome Plates offers three meal plans – Weight Loss, Energy and Vitality, and Performance. So, if you are an athlete, you fall under the Performance meal plan. Step two – decide on your dietary preference – gluten, grain or dairy free, whole foods or vegan.

Wholesome Plates meals are prepared in a commercial kitchen, by an experienced chef, so food safety and quality assurance are ensured. “It’s a commercial kitchen with a professional chef, so just like with anything else, we’re very stringent about intolerances,” says Boyar. Once you’ve placed your order the team at Wholesome Plates then sources, cooks and serves your meals. Meals are delivered on Sunday mornings. “The reason why we made it a Sunday morning delivery is that people aren’t at work,” says Boyar.

The meal serve sizes were big – well, bigger than what I’m used to. So you might be able to split the meals up – hello, leftovers. One of the downsides of Wholesome Plates for some may be the price point. According to their website, meal plans range from $375-425 for five days’ worth of meals and snacks. That works out to be about $20-25 per ‘meal’. That might not be affordable for everyone, but you’re getting what you pay for. According to Boyar, meals are built using “the highest quality ingredients as the standard, combined with delicious chef prepared recipes that are nutritionally balanced, against calculated targets.” “The result of this approach will be slightly more expensive than deciding on a lower price point and compromising on quality and taste,” explains Boyar. “From a cost and time point of view, I’m better off staying at work for an extra hour, getting my food delivered, than spending that three hours shopping and cooking. It works out to be more cost effective in every possible way,” adds Boyar.

The cost also appears to be justified by the fact that a lot of time and effort goes into menu and recipe development, and meal production. From sourcing quality, seasonal produce, ensuring meals and menu’s are analysed using the latest nutrition software and meet strict nutrition criteria as determined by the dietitian, to the end product – fresh, delicious, wholesome, chef-prepared meals. It seems with Wholesome Plates you will get a lot of bang for your buck. But wait, that’s not all! Meals and menu plan’s also come with detailed education material. “We provide a detailed ‘Nutrition Support Plan’ online booklet that provides education around what meals and snacks to have outside the meals delivered,” explains Wholesome Plates’ Sports Dietitian, Amy Giannotti. “We also provide lifestyle guidelines around ‘free meals’, alcohol and training to best support your goals. We are big advocates for empowering our customers to achieve their goals with education,” she adds.     

If you’ve ever thought about working in the food industry and running a meal delivery business, Boyar’s advice is: “Don’t,” she laughs. “No, I’m kidding. It’s hard, and there’s a lot of competition out there at the moment. But I think you just have to be on your own track. It doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing. I think, as long as my team and I are doing our best to put the best possible product out there, I don’t care what anyone else is doing. I think there’s enough room for everybody.” That’s some solid advice for business and life.

So, if you’re a busy, time-poor athlete, who would love nothing more than to have someone else meal plan, prep and cook for you than this is the service for you. Not only would all your meals for the working week be delivered straight to your door (literally, all you’d need to do is heat and eat!) but you could be certain that you’re getting the best food possible, for performance and long term health. What is better than that!

Three most important things to know about the brand:

1. The tastiest food

2. The most nutrient dense meals

3. The best service possible

“You’ve got, honestly, your three best team members putting forward every aspect of what you need – taste, dietary nutrients and food quality. And I think for an athlete, that’s the winning formula,” says Boyar.

My Taste Test 

YUM! Pumpkin soup with slithers of ginger and added pepitas.

In prep for this article, I was given the opportunity to taste-test a few of the meals and to see how the meal delivery service works.

I was so excited about this but after a long week and with my mind focused on training on the weekend, I forgot about it. So, it was such a nice surprise to have my Wholesome Plates cooler bag at my door when I came home from a training ride on the weekend.

After riding 90km in the Melbourne freezer I was starving when I got home so I was very happy to have some meals ready and at my door.

I’ll admit – I was a little sceptical about the quality of the delivered meals. I thought I’d be getting something similar to the pre-prepared or frozen meals you get at the supermarket. But I was pleasantly surprised. The meals were gourmet, fresh and delicious!

The pumpkin soup wasn’t just pumpkin soup – it had slithers of fresh ginger and added pepitas. The chicken curry came with healthy and delicious black rice, instead of starchy white rice. The flavours of buckwheat goreng were divine and the buckwheat itself made for a much healthier and yummier choice compared to fried rice. What’s more, the meal serve sizes were big – well, bigger than what I’m used to. So you might be able to split the meals up – hello, leftovers or a pre-training snack in the afternoon. Win!

If you can afford it, Wholesome Plates is definitely the meal service to choose. You won’t be disappointed. You are guaranteed healthy, fresh, chef prepared meals. And the best bit – all you have to do is heat and eat. What’s better than that?

Info

For further details about Wholesome Plates, visit their website: www.wholesomeplates.com.au  

PHOTOGRAPHY: Supplied 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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